UPDATE: In my mulling over of the issue of simultaneous submissions below I think my maths is pretty shonky and I just wanted to add that a 'no' can be startlingly horrifyingly quick (sometimes in just 4 weeks) making the process very streamlined and efficient but totally depressing. However when its not a straight out 'no', ( instead, being either a long drawn out 'no' or a 'yes') in my experience so far - on average - my wait time has been in excess of 4 months.
My brain cells have been debating 'simultaneous submissions'. Its not something you see discussed much and I thought it might be useful to lay some pros and cons out there. If you don't already know, simultaneous submissions (aka multiple submissions) are where you send your manuscript to more than one publisher at a time.
Pro - If you are an impatient biddy like me, waiting x (as in x = more than 4 months) amount of time for each publisher to consider your manuscript before being able to send it on to the next one should the first publisher decline, is like having one long session at the dentist without anaesthetic. If it takes 4 or more months for each reply then you can make only three (or less) submissions per manuscript per year (without even factoring in the christmas close-down etc). If a yes is 6 or more publishers away then this is two years to get a yes and then at least another two years (on average) before publication. Thats maybe up to four years folks assuming you get a yes at some point. If you don't get a yes, its two years of slowly pedalling backwards. I thought the pace of life was speeding up? Why is the inverse true in the publishing industry? Is it God's cruel joke? Was I that naughty? Simultaneous submissions will reduce this waiting time considerably, effectively becoming the publishing industry equivalent of prozac without the chemical side effects.
Con - if they are all nos then you've had a lot of rejection in a short period of time which is the opposite of prozac. Still, better to know sooner rather than later that that manuscript is the mouldy side of death and you can move on to honing the next piece of literary perfection. Having said that, multiple rejections are not always the last word on a manuscript which might find a home when publishing trends change. I never bury my mouldy dead manuscripts but keep them in cryogenic stasis just in case.
con - I have had the experience of having two publishers interested in the same manuscript at the same time and I have to say it was not pleasant. I stressed heaps and while overseas this kind of situation might lead to a better offer being put on the table that didn't happen here. I had to decide which publisher I preferred and it wasn't an easy decision but I believe the decision I made was the right one in the end.
I don't send simultaneous submissions to create a sense of urgency or a bidding war between publishers because I'm not Neil Gaiman or Audrey Niffeneger and publishers aren't falling over each other beating a path to my door. I do it to preserve my flimsy shred of sanity and keep my dreadful impatience in check. I also figure there's more benefit to the publisher then there is to me with single submissions which doesn't seem fair. I can't help feeling that the submissions and publishing processes are weighted in the publisher's favour. Making simultaneous submissions feels like a way of giving the author a little bit of control back. Publishers are taking longer and longer to make decisions (I've heard instances of some people getting a no after a year's wait - although this is not the norm). I'm not trying to be stroppy or controversial - I'm just trying to manage my writing career without going crazy. If manuscript turn around times were shorter I would be more than happy to do single submissions.
It pays to check out if the publisher you are submitting to accepts multiple submissions. They should specify if they don't accept mulitple submissions in their guidelines and if they don't mention it I assume they are okay with it. if in doubt - ask. It should be mentioned in your submission that you are sending the manuscript to other publishers - its just professional courtesy. I confess to having forgotten to mention it on occasion (in those wine and chocolate fuelled unprofessional moments) but where possible I try and let the publisher know (this is one of those moments where its better to do as I say, not as I do. Professional courtesy is always the preferred means of operation).
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